What to Expect With a Telehealth Appointment for Depression

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Was this helpful?
Caucasian businesswoman thinking at desk in office

You’ve taken the first step. You’ve contacted your doctor and requested a telehealth visit to address your depression. But you’ve never done this before, and you’re not quite sure what to expect. Learn more about telemedicine for mental health conditions like depression to understand how it can help you.

You will be able to get treatment for your depression.

Depression is a common mental health disorder. In fact, experts estimate that more than 7% of the adult population of the United States is affected by major depressive disorder (MDD) in any given year. The numbers increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, too.

However, when you have depression, it can feel intensely lonely. You may feel like no one else could possibly be experiencing what you’re experiencing. And it can get worse over time, if left untreated.

Fortunately, depression can be treated with medications, psychotherapy or counseling, or with a combination of both. And you can get access to all of that care with a telehealth appointment. Your telehealth appointment will be just like an in-person visit, just without the travel and waiting room. You can get psychotherapy to discuss your depression, including your symptoms, the root causes, the triggers and your coping mechanisms. Your doctor can also prescribe medication and make sure you’re taking the right amount of the right drug. And if the combination you initially choose doesn’t work out, you can discuss other options that might be a better choice for you.

You’ll have to learn to use certain technology.

You may have to learn some new tricks when it comes to technology for telehealth. But you might not. Many mental healthcare providers are using telecommunications platforms that are very similar to programs you’re already using for work or to maintain family connections, like Zoom or Skype. (Some providers might even use those for certain purposes.) You may need to access a secure web portal or download an app, though, so be sure to check with your provider’s office to get the details in advance.

Typically, most video conferencing programs will require that you have:

  • Web camera with microphone
  • Computer, laptop or smartphone
  • High-speed internet connection
  • A quiet place that’s free from additional noises or distractions

Once you know what platform you’ll be using, you can log on and give it a try. You might even find it’s easier to use than you anticipated.

Advance preparation can help make the visit go smoothly.

The technology angle is important, of course. But it’s not the only thing you’ll need to address when preparing for your upcoming telehealth visit. Think about how you usually prepare for a visit with your mental health care provider. Do you make a list of questions? Do you jot down some notes about how you’ve been feeling? Do you make a mental list of medication side effects that are bothering you? Whatever you would do to prepare for a regular in-person visit, that’s exactly how to prepare for a telehealth visit. You may find that your advanced preparations will make the appointment run much more smoothly, and you won’t hang up, only to remember that you forgot to ask a particular question.

It’s also important to find a private space to get set up before your telehealth visit. In order to best manage your depression, you’ll need to be honest with your doctor about how you’re feeling–so make sure you feel comfortable sharing confidential information during your call. If you’re worried other members of your household will overhear your conversation, consider using a white noise smartphone app or placing a white noise machine by the door to your room. You might even want to talk to your doctor in the privacy of your car to be safe.

You’ll be able to see your doctor… and vice versa.

During a virtual visit with video and audio, your provider will be able to see and hear you–and see and hear whatever or whomever is in the background behind you. Treat your telehealth appointment like a real doctor visit-because it is! If your spouse or your dog wanders into the room, they’ll be on camera, too. If you can shut the door and minimize distractions, that would be ideal. You might also want to move the pile of laundry or anything else you’d rather not show off. Consider the light around you, too, so your doctor can see you clearly.

Your telehealth appointment might not be over video every time. Some providers may use video conferencing for regular appointments but still rely on telephone calls or even secure messaging to contact their patients with questions or requests for information.

It’s completely normal to be a little uncertain about telehealth if you’ve never used it before. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if you have any questions about how it will work–and what you’ll need to do for follow-up appointments.

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 20
View All Depression Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Zarefsky M. 5 huge ways the pandemic has changed telemedicine. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/digital/5-huge-ways-pandemic-has-changed-telemedicine
  2. Clinical Outcomes. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/telepsychiatry/toolkit/clinical-outcomes
  3. Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
  4. Ettman CK, et al. Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(9):e2019686. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19686
  5. History of Telepsychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/telepsychiatry/toolkit/history-of-telepsychiatry
  6. Palylyk-Colwell E, et al. Telehealth for the Assessment and Treatment of Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety: Clinical Evidence. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2018 Apr 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532701/
  7. Warren JC and Smalley KB. Using Telehealth to Meet Mental Health Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/using-telehealth-meet-mental-health-needs-during-covid-19-crisis